Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Taking care of business

Seeing Eye pups learn the "park time" command so they will eliminate before they hit the sidewalk.

Taking care of business

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When I stopped Sparkle at a fire hydrant, she had no interest in sniffing it or peeing near or on it. I don't slow down for hydrants or mailboxes and keep her moving along as briskly as possible. As you can see, she's much more interested in something (I have no idea what) going on down the street.

It's by no means the most glamorous part of puppy-raising, but I'd been thinking for a while that I should address the issue of doggie potty time. And now with the fatal shooting of a man in Tacony who, according to police, had simply asked his neighbor to pick up his dog's poop, I realize it's high time to talk.

We train the Seeing Eye pups to eliminate before we take them out walking, using the command "park time." This part of training is crucial, because it is extremely difficult for a blind person to stop along the way to locate and dispose of dog waste.  Before I take Sparkle and Porter out, we spend a minute or two in the backyard  and I give the command for them to go.

Before we leave, I always make sure I have a poop bag, usually a plastic supermarket bag, and paper towels on me. About half the time, at least one of the dogs will have to take a potty break while we're  walking.  Everyone who walks a dog, not just a puppy-raiser, needs to develop a system of how to pick up the poop and carry it home for disposal. (I consider people who don't routinely pick up and dispose of poop to be outlaw dog owners, in the same category as those who let their dogs run loose in populated areas. And they give the rest of us a bad rap.)  

On the other hand, I have encountered over the years a few irrational homeowners.  Here's one: On one muggy summer evening at dusk, I was walking Porter, Timber and Sparkle's mom, Velma, past a house when a guy started screaming at us from behind. I had given the dogs a spritz from the water bottle as I passed his house, and he thought it was urine on his sidewalk. I kept yelling "Water! It's water!" and waving the bottle aloft for him to see. He was so irate that my daughter was actually afraid he would attack us.  Finally, he simply turned and stormed off into his house without a word.    

On organized outings, where I take Sparkle's backpack, I make sure there are extra paper towels and bags. I also keep Sparkle moving ahead when we are walking. I discourage her from dallying to sniff signs, hydrants, mailboxes and other places where dogs have left their so-called "pee mail." 

I know this is an emotional topic, but  I do pray that cooler heads prevail.

George Carter
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About this blog
George Carter, The Inquirer's weekend national/foreign editor, has always counted dogs among his closest companions. According to family lore, he learned to walk by clinging to the side of a saintly patient mutt named Spanker. In turn, one of his earliest hazy memories is of tossing treats to the family dogs gathered expectantly on the porch of their Maryland farmhouse. It was only natural then, that when George saw a newspaper ad looking for families to raise puppies for the Seeing Eye of Morristown, N.J., he bit at the chance. From the start, it has been a family project, with teenage daughter Betsy as the official puppy-raiser. First there was Porter, a big-hearted yellow Lab born on Memorial Day 2004. A few years later, the Carters raised Velma, a gorgeous Lab/golden cross. Just a couple weeks ago, Velma's 7-week-old daughter Sparkle arrived as the latest family charge. George, Betsy and mom Cathy are thrilled that Sparkle is from Velma's very first litter. You can reach George Carter at 215-854-2411 or by clicking here. Reach George at gcarter@phillynews.com.

George Carter
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